Football Continues Winning Ways with Victory Over Lehigh


Fordham’s offense awoke in the second half after napping in the first to complete the comeback. (Courtesy of Fordham Athletics)

Coming into Saturday’s contest against Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Penn., a casual viewer might have viewed it as an easy game for Fordham. The Rams entered with a 4-1 record, fresh off a steamrolling of Georgetown University by a score of 59-38. Lehigh, on the other hand, were 1-4, with their only win coming against that same Hoyas team by a narrow margin of 21-19.

But in the Patriot League, each game is a tough one, especially those played away from home. 

As every one of Fordham’s opponents have this season, the Mountain Hawks showed up to play. After going into halftime trailing, the Rams came alive in the second half to defeat Lehigh 40-28 to improve to 5-1 on the season and 2-1 in Patriot League play. 

More strong quarterback play from senior Tim DeMorat led the way for the Rams. The Florida native totaled 499 yards passing and four touchdowns on the day, bringing his season totals up to 2,652 yards and 30 touchdowns in just six games played. These video game-esque numbers continue to lead the entire Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).

Although DeMorat typically steals the headlines, this Rams team is not a one-man wrecking crew. Senior receiver MJ Wright had a career day in Bethlehem, totaling 226 yards receiving and two touchdowns on just four catches. That’s a whopping 56.5 yards per reception, displaying the big play ability of Fordham’s offense.

And for the second straight week, the Rams’ rushing attack was alive and kicking through sophomore Julius Loughridge and graduate student Trey Sneed. Loughridge totaled 104 yards rushing with a score, while Sneed added another 60 yards in support of the Rams’ aerial attack.

But before the Fordham offense even had a chance to step on the field Saturday, the Mountain Hawks took the lead. On the opening kick of the game, Jalen Burbage returned it 89 yards to the house, giving Lehigh an early 7-0 advantage. More sloppy play immediately followed for the Rams. On their opening offensive drive, DeMorat was strip-sacked in Lehigh territory by Stephon Bland. Dean Colton picked up the loose ball and returned it 39 yards for the touchdown, doubling Lehigh’s lead to 14-0.

While the Fordham defense has received much criticism this year, the Rams fell behind 14-0 without defensive coordinator Mark Powell’s unit having an opportunity to do anything about it. 

Needing to bounce back from the early special teams miscue and turnover, Fordham’s offense had the perfect response to the Mountain Hawk’s quick start. Loughridge took over on the subsequent Fordham drive, breaking a 42-yard touchdown run to get the Rams back within seven. A defensive stop got Fordham the ball right back, allowing DeMorat to hit Wright over the top for a 48-yard score that leveled the game at 14.

That was the score heading into the second quarter of play, where Fordham failed to capitalize on the momentum they created in the first. A 24-yard field goal from Brandon Peskin put Fordham on top 17-14, but a long scoring drive from Lehigh immediately followed. Mountain Hawk’s quarterback Dante Perri found Eric Johnson for a six-yard touchdown to cap off an impressive 15-play, 75-yard drive.

More mistakes followed for the Fordham special teams unit, as senior receiver Fotis Kokosioulis fumbled the ensuing kickoff. Lehigh recovered deep in Fordham territory, but the Rams’ defensive unit came up with a clutch fourth down stop to keep the score at 21-17 going into halftime.

The Rams, looking to bounce back from an error-ridden first half, begin the second with the football. In just two plays, Fordham went 76 yards down the field to take the lead right back. DeMorat first found Wright for 63 yards, followed immediately by a 13-yard score to junior Mekai Felton. 

With the lead again, Fordham did not stop. The defense forced a quick three-and-out, giving DeMorat the chance to do more damage right away. He did just that, finding senior Dequece Carter for a 40-yard touchdown. Fordham later added a field goal to make it 17 unanswered points in the third quarter.

Early in the fourth quarter, though, Lehigh answered back to make it a one score game again. Perri delivered a strike to receiver Connor Kennedy for a six-yard touchdown, making it a 34-28 game in favor of the Rams. A turnover-on-downs for the Rams gave Lehigh the ball back with a chance to take the lead, but Fordham’s defense stood firm and forced a punt. The Rams took advantage of their next offensive possession, with DeMorat hitting Wright deep over the middle for an electric 79-yard touchdown. This put the Rams up 40-28, with that score remaining the same until the very end.

While the offense will once again take the plaudits for putting up 40 huge points, this was an underrated game from the Fordham defense. Thanks to turnovers and poor play on special teams, the Rams’ defense was consistently put in tough spots. They come up with huge stops when they needed to, allowing the offense to quickly get back on the field. Sophomore linebacker James Conway led the way for the Rams with nine total tackles. He was named GEICO Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week for his performance. 

Sitting at 5-1, Fordham have officially crossed the halfway point of their regular season. A non-conference matchup with Stony Brook University at Jack Coffey Field awaits the Rams this Saturday, as they look to keep what has been an impressive season thus far rolling in the right direction. That game is set for a 6 p.m. start and can be streamed live on ESPN+ or listened to on WFUV 90.7.